A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century

A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century

by Witold Rybczynski
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A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
cutegrandpa More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book. I was entranced in it from beginning to end. I learned a lot that I didn't know before. His writing was good and easy to read.
JenP83 More than 1 year ago
Gives a lot of background of American history before, during, and after the Civil War, plus what went into the design and planning of Central Park, etc.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just by accident, I happened to see the last portion of a television interview with the author, Witold Rybczynski. Given my long-standing interest in Olmsted, I quickly decided to buy the book. With no hope what-so-ever of spelling the author's name correctly and not being able to remember the word Clearing in the title, I typed Olmsted in the Barnes & Noble key word search field and up popped A Clearing in the Distance as the first entry. A few more clicks, and the book was on its way. My previous knowledge of Olmsted's life and career was limited mainly to his philosophy of outdoor recreation and involvement in the National Park movement in America. For example, I successfully got the publishers of a popular introductory geology text to correctly spell Olmsted (no 'a') Point, a prominent feature overlooking Yosemite Valley. A Clearing in the Distance promised to fill the gaps and provide an education about this man whose intellectual legacy, like his writings, landscapes, and parks, just keeps growing in breadth and stature with the passage of time. The book fulfilled my expectations. I will no longer feel intimidated about discussing Olmsted on the hi-brow cocktail party circuit; more importantly, I'm more confident and on safer grounds discussing Olmsted's major contributions to the long-standing movement in America toward an environmental conscience and toward appreciating Nature on its own terms as contrasted with overpowering and obliterating Nature and creating wholly artificial environments on a massive scale. I'm not convinced that Olmsted would have 'enjoyed' a day at a megamall; I am convinced that he would have firmly opposed the use of cell-phones, E-Trade, and satellite-linked pagers in Yosemite Valley and Central Park. I was especially pleased to find a basis in Olmsted's youth and formative years for his exceptionally strong social conscience and racial, ethnic, and religious tolerance. His economic and social advantages never blinded him to common sense, whether it came from a genteel intellectual or an uneducated slave. His belief that we, as human beings, will rise to the challenge if given the proper education, information, and level of responsibility is evident in his methods of delegating responsibility and in his insisting on a solid, well-rounded education and career preparation for his children. Clearly, Olmsted did not believe in social and/or genetic predestination and would not have been at all sympathetic to the KKK! Olmsted's keen interest in Nature will be a source of comfort and inspiration to present-day environmental scientists and activists striving to understand the complexities of natural processes and fighting to protect what's left of our natural areas. His dedication to utilizing basic knowledge of bedrock, soils, climate, vegetation, and aquatic environments would still bring a big yawn today in some otherwise well-educated, 'knowledgeable' circles, but geologists, soil scientists, and ecologists will love it. As a kid growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, I somehow got the idea that Levittown and its post World War II siblings were the first, large-scale, planned communities in the U. S. I now know better! Prior to reading this book, I had envisioned Olmsted's time as manager of the Mariposa Estates as an enjoyable, trouble-free, California interlude from his heavy 'Easterner' responsibilities. Dead Wrong! Given the labor and fiscal troubles Rybczynski documents on the estate, and the ensuing financial chaos engulfing the New York management company, it seems that Olmsted was a miracle worker to avoid violence and keep things going for as long as he did. The eventual insolvency and collapse of the Mariposa Estate gold mining operations was, in all likelihood, a genuine commercial failure based on ignorance and inflated expectations as contrasted to a stock swindle and flim-flam operation based on greed and cunning. First of all, the company's owners and Olmsted himself
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shaq Uncut the best tho!!!!!